Saturday, January 22, 2011

Quick Back To Making History for the Kings

Goaltender Jonathan Quick set a number of team records for the Kings last season, including games played (72) and wins (39).

Well, he was back to his old tricks again Saturday night in the Phoenix desert.

Actually, it was Glendale. But, that's beside the point.

Two weeks ago he earned his 19th victory of the season in a 6-4 slugfest over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

And you know what they say, if at first you don't succeed, try, try, try, try...and try again.

Five attempts later he picked up his 20th win (a 4-3 win in Phoenix) - becoming only the third goaltender in franchise history to do so in three straight seasons. Rogie Vachon accomplished the feat six times (1972-78) and Kelly Hrudey did it three times (1989-92).

Not bad for a guy who's really only a third year pro.

It's been well documented that LA has gone 3-10 over the last 13 games, a stretch that started back on December 29th with an embarrassing 6-3 loss in Phoenix. On a personal level, it's the only game Quick has been pulled from this season. So, if that was something eating away at him, perhaps the monkey is now off his back.

The larger issue at hand though is can the Kings create some positive momentum from this game and come out strong on Monday vs. the Bruins?

Two Minutes In The Box... with Andrei Loktionov

Former fifth round draft pick, Andrei Loktionov, is back with the Kings.

He played one game with the team last year and had a handful of games earlier this year in the NHL before spending most of the season with Manchester (AHL) - where he was leading the club with 23 assists.

The creative center found immediate success upon coming to North America in 2008, winning a Memorial Cup with the Windsor Spitfires. Obviously, that's something Brayden Schenn, Tyler Toffoli and Maxim Kitsyn all hope to do this season too.

But, back to Loktionov.

With the help of his non-Russian speaking interpreter (me), we chatted for a few minutes after practice on Friday at the Kings training facility in El Segundo...

MM: When you were here (in LA) earlier this season you were playing wing. How about when you back to Manchester, were you on the wing or playing center again?

AL:  I only play center in Manchester.

You were back on the wing Thursday night vs. Phoenix. Is that something you're comfortable with?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Kyle Clifford and Kevin Westgarth Respond to Biz Nasty

In an era when so many professional athletes are very buttoned up and often provide cliche answers to questions, some find a way to break out of the pack.

Paul Bissonnette of the Phoenix Coyotes is one of the latter. As noted yesterday, even though he's played less than 100 games in the NHL, his huge following on twitter recently helped him garner more NHL All Star votes this year than some of the top up and coming forwards in the game.

Prior to the Kings-Coyotes match-up yesterday BizNasty - as he's known to his fans - stopped by MayorsManor for a quick interview.  The highlight (or lowlight?) of the interview was him saying this about Kings' forward Kyle Clifford - "(He) jumped me in pre-season. Then, I asked him to fight last game like a man, (he) wouldn't."

The video doesn't exactly support his case from the first incident. However, after practice today I wanted to see what Clifford and Kevin Westgarth had to say about things...

That's A Goal?

For what it's worth, two Coyotes players told me they didn't think it was good.

With another loss tonight the Kings have more questions than answers right now - something we broke down earlier today in a full team review right here.

The Mayor

Thursday, January 20, 2011

LA vs Phoenix Preview - TwInterview with Biz Nasty

In hockey circles you have your black aces, plumbers, pipefitters, fillers, bridges and so on.

There's also a whole different type of role player. This guy has played in less than 100 NHL career games, has scored three goals total over three seasons and averages only five minutes of ice time a night for the Phoenix Coyotes.

Yet, he had more All Star Game votes this year than Matt Duchene (Colorado), John Tavares (NY Islanders) and Dustin Brown.

If Howard Stern is the King of All Media, then Paul Bissonnette is certainly the Champ of Twitter (sorry Ashton Kutcher, you lose).

Tweeps know all about @BizNasty2point0. However, if you're not connected to the twitterverse yet, you're missing his takes on PT Cruisers, homeless people, hot girls, scrabble games with teammates, attempted translations of Ilya Bryzgalov quotes and shopping tips like this one - "Just bought the beats by Dr. Dre Pro. These things make William Hung sound like Pavarotti." Followed by "These headphones are like the shake weight on crack."

As the master of 140 word or less quotes, it was only right that the first ever MayorsManor twinterview was with Biz Nasty himself.

Here are a few thoughts he shared with me prior to tonight's game...

MM: You've introduced the masses to many words on twitter - i.e. twigs (hockey sticks), apples (assists) and twooping (you don't want to know!). What word have you used that confused people most?

PB: None, cause I'll usually explain them via twitter.

MM: You recently noted you have a new roommate on the road (Chris Summers). Why the change and what do you think about it so far?

PB: Because (David) Schlemko is out with a conci (concussion) and not on the road. So I have the call up.

MM: How are things going with the new clothing line and what are some future plans?

PB: Sauce Hockey is expanding. We have some (more) stuff coming out soon.

[note: If you're thinking those are pretty bland answers and were hoping for something good, hang on...he's about to bring the heat...]
MM: The Kings have three scrappers right now (Kevin Westgarth, Kyle Clifford and Wayne Simmonds). You've faced off with Westgarth twice, including once in the AHL, and Clifford during the pre-season.  What are your thoughts on those guys?

PB: Clifford jumped me in pre season, then I asked him to fight last game like a man, (he) wouldn't. Standard. Heard he jumped guys in junior a lot. As for Westgarth, tough customer. Clifford is tough too, he will get stronger too, and he can play.

There was supposed to be a fifth question about his playing time in juniors (Owen Sound0 with the Kings' Brad Richardson and Ducks' Bobby Ryan. I haven't heard back on that one. Technical difficulties I guess. So, we'll save that for a different day.

Tonight the Kings and Coyotes will meet for the third time this season. Perhaps Bissonnette will get that rematch with Clifford he's been looking for.

If we're lucky, he'll even tweet about it after the game.

The Mayor


Interview with Eric Belanger - Game Preview prior to the last LA-PHX game

Interview with Cam Janssen of STL Blues - he comments on Kings and Biz Nasty

Interview with Bobby Ryan - talks about his friendship with Kings' players

Clifford and Westgarth respond to Biz Nasty Twinterview


Kings Come Home With Questions, Not Answers

The Kings return home tonight to play the first of a home-and-home series with the Coyotes, a team that's already beaten them twice this season.

After losing both games on their road trip earlier this week the Kings are now 2-9 over the last 11 games, a stretch that began with an embarrassing 6-3 loss in Phoenix. Things were so bad in that game Jonathan Quick was pulled for the first time this season.

Several Kings players talked here about what it would take to snap the team out of the losing streak. However, that was after they lost five straight. They've gone 2-4 since then. So, it's far from fixed.

There just seems to be more questions than answers at this point...

Coach Terry Murray:

Did he forget how to coach in the last few months? Doubtful, he guided the team to 101 points last year and could have been a finalist for the Jack Adams Award (Coach of the Year). Have the players tuned him out? It's possible. But, why? He had the goods last year and it's not like he's a hard-nosed coach who rubs players the wrong way. Are they stifled in the system? Perhaps.

Are they frustrated with the constant line changes? Maybe. However, I've asked more than half the forwards about it over the last few weeks and they all basically say it's a non-issue. At this level they expect to play with different players.

Any questions about Murray's immediate future behind the bench were put to rest yesterday when GM Dean Lombardi said "We're all in this together." Coaching isn't the issue.

Special Teams:

The penalty kill is ranked 23rd on the road and yet it's tied with Tampa Bay for the best in the league at home (88.6%). True to form, three of the four goals scored against the Kings on the road trip earlier this week were on the PK. Why such a varied discrepancy in the home/road stats?

They've also failed to score a power play goal in five consecutive games now.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Recap of Dean Lombardi on NHL Live

Kings President and General Manager Dean Lombardi joined the gang on NHL Live radio this morning. Here's a quick recap...

* When I first got here I was shocked by how passionate the core fan base was. A real test of your fan base is how things go when you aren't doing well. They're a very passionate group. They've paid their dues and they deserve a winner here.

* How do you feel about the team right now? I went through this building process in San Jose and having that experience (of growing pains) makes it a little easier to emotionally and rationally work your way though it. The second year is the toughest (the year after you make the playoffs). The first year you're able to sneak up on people, team's don't respect you and there's no real price for failure. The second year you come back is totally different.  Learning to deal with the expectations people put on you is tough. It's always harder in life to do things with expectations versus accomplishing something without expectations on you.

* The spiking (streaks of wins and losses, like 12-3 start or recent losing streak) is something you usually don't see.

* Dealing with success is harder than dealing with failure. When we were 12-3 it's easy to get complacent or start believing your own press. You have to learn from it.

LA Kings - Five Years Ago Today

Edmonton. Calgary. Vancouver.

The Kings played many classic games against their former Smythe Division rivals back in the 80s and early 90s.

Anaheim. San Jose. Detroit.

Since moving to Staples Center, the team has played some epic contests against those teams as well.

One team that won't be making any such list is the Atlanta Thrashers - with one notable exception...

On January 19, 2006 they visited the Kings and played foil to Luc Robitaille's historic evening.

Entering play that night he had scored 13 hat tricks in a Kings uniform. When the game was over LA had downed the Thrashers 8-6 and Robitaille had become the King of Kings.

In the first period he tied Marcel Dionne for the most goals in franchise history with goal number 550. His game winner in the third period broke the mark and with little time remaining he added an empty net goal for good measure. It wound up being his last hat trick as a King - but, certainly his most memorable.

He scored five more goals before retiring at season's end with 557 as a King. His number was retired 366 days later and he eventually was elected to the Hall of Fame.

A few other notes on Luc...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Kings Handed a Loss in Dallas

The Kings have just dug themselves a trenta-sized hole.

After a dismal eight game homestand that saw them win just two games in the bunch, they headed out to Dallas tonight - a place they hadn't lost since the 2008-09 season (two years to the exact day to be more specific).

It was also the first of a 16 game stretch where they'll play 13 on the road - a place where they began the night with a 9-11 record.

Jonathan Bernier was back in goal for his first back-to-back start this year. He played great, just not good enough.

LA entered the game 10-for-10 on recent penalty kills. They shrugged off three more in the first period and went into the first intermission leading 1-0 on a Justin Williams goal.

Dallas tied it in the second. Brenden Morrow was creating havoc in front of the net and the Stars dynamic duo of Loui Eriksson and Brad Richards combined again to pick up a goal and an assist. It was a power play goal.

Kings Will (Probably) Get New Jerseys Next Season

During Frozen Fury weekend last October I reported that some members of Kings management were informally surveying select fans in Las Vegas regarding possible tweaks to the current Kings jerseys for the 2011-12 season.

Additional fuel was added to the fire the following week when a report surfaced online featuring a picture of possible prototypes laying in Luc Robitaille's office.

Things heated up again over the last few days as the new Reebok planning catalog started to circulate and it specifically mentioned the Kings as one of 11 teams considering a change for next season.

Well, from the 'where there's smoke there's fire' department, it was confirmed to me today by a source inside the organization that changes are indeed being considered.

The most likely scenario has the current third jersey converted to the primary jersey and being offered in a black/white version. A new third jersey would feature a crown and the color purple. The question is, will it be the current crown or the original one from the Forum days?

Since the Kings wore their purple and gold jerseys on opening night there has been renewed fan interest in merchandise featuring the logo and colors from that era. Thus, that's a major part of the discussion taking place.

The league needs to be notified within in the next few months (believed to be by the end of March) if any jersey changes will be taking place in time for next season. However, the team is not obligated to release the information immediately following the deadline.

In fact, the official unveiling may not be announced publicly until June.

Either way, get ready - changes are probably coming.

The Mayor

STAT CHECK - LA Kings at Dallas Stars

Tonight's Kings-Stars game will be televised nationally on VERSUS starting at 5:30pm PST.

Although the Kings have been struggling lately, they've had significant success against the Stars in recent years: 8-2-0 in their last 10 games vs. Dallas overall, 7-2-1 in their last 10 trips to Texas (including five straight wins) and have beat them twice this year (a 5-2 win in Dallas and a 3-1 victory in LA).

The Stars are 5-0-1 in the month of January though and are looking to keep things rolling.

Below are five additional notes from both sides of the puck that will help set the stage for the third of six meetings this season between the two Pacific Division rivals...


* Brenden Morrow has to be watched closely. Not only are his 18 goals enough to tie him for the team lead, but he always seems to find the back of the net in crucial situations. While his 37 points (18g, 19a) in 59 games vs. LA don't scream 'Kings Killer', six of those goals have been game winners.

* The Stars have the best winning percentage in the NHL when they score first (.875, 21-2-1). The Kings are .792 (19-7).

* Both teams have scored an average of 2.9 goals per game this season. When it comes to goal scoring tandems though, the Stars have one of the best. Brad Richards and Loui Eriksson have combined for 100 points so far - trailing only the Sedin twins (113 pts) for the league lead.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

...And Now You're Caught Up

Too many home games lately, not enough time to keep up with all the Kings related news going on? Don't worry, we've got you covered. Here's a quick overview of the ten things you need to know - including a few trade rumors, when Schenn will play again, goaltending notes and more...

* Kitsyn vs. Toffoli - Two of the Kings top prospects were scheduled to faceoff today in what looked like a showdown in the making. Instead, it was a beatdown. Tyler Toffoli (Ottawa 67's) came into the game riding a 25 game point streak. His team lost 6-1 without him picking up a point and he was minus-4 to make it hurt even more. Maxim Kitsyn had an assist in the game, pushing his totals to seven points (3g, 4a) in five games since coming to the OHL.

* Rumors continue to swirl around Dustin Penner possibly being targeted by the Kings. Why? He's not a good fit on this team.  There are plenty of better options at left wing.  Unfortunately, Ryan Malone (Tampa Bay) is probably not one of them.  Word is, he doesn't want to waive his no trade clause.

* Speaking of trades, two notes on Brayden Schenn. First off, as you may have heard, he was traded by his last place junior team (Brandon Wheat Kings) to the WHL leading Saskatoon Blades (his hometown team). However, due to a shoulder injury he sustained at the recent World Junior Championship in Buffalo, he has yet to make his debut with the new team. Barring a setback, it looks like that first game will now take place on January 22 vs. the Calgary Hitmen.

POLL: Quick or Bernier?

The plane ride to Dallas is going to be a little less stressful after the Kings picked up a win last night vs. the visiting Edmonton Oilers.

Now comes the tough part though. Who starts in goal for the next two games? The Kings are scheduled for back-to-back games on Monday-Tuesday, so more than likely each goalie will get one start. Before answering the question, consider the following:

* Earlier in the season coach Terry Murray said his preference was to play Quick vs. the division opponents. He's deviated from that twice. In mid-November Jonathan Bernier lost in San Jose and then beat the Ducks in LA the day after Christmas.

* Jonathan Quick has struggled against St. Louis this year - giving up eight goals in two games and finishing with save percentages of .833 and .857.

* Quick has had four straight games with save percentages under .900. However, in two games this season vs. Dallas he's given up three goals total and won both games.

* Bernier has started on the road seven times this year.  His only victory was a 6-1 win at Nashville on December 18.  He did look good last night though, holding the Oilers to two just goals.

* Bernier has faced Dallas only one time prior.  Last March he beat the Stars 2-1 in a shootout - in Dallas.

Should Murray stick with the likely plan and play Quick vs. Dallas and Bernier vs. St. Louis?  Or should he stick with the winning line-up from Saturday and keep Bernier in net vs. the Stars?  What would you do?

[UPDATE: Poll closed early.  After practice today Murray announced Bernier will start tomorrow night in Dallas. He wants to stick with the hot hand...even though the majority of voters below feel differently.]

To see the results